Scythe Samurai Z CPU heatsink / fan

Cooling
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COMPARISON

The midrange market for heatsinks is quite crowded, so it is worth looking at how the Samurai Z stacks up against the competition. Its most obvious competitor is Scythe's own Katana, but there is no shortage of other choices. The comparison uses our quiet reference fan, so it is biased a bit towards heatsinks that perform well under low airflow conditions. This is a useful bias, since a quiet system inevitably means low airflow.

Midrange Heatsinks, °C Rise with Nexus 92mm fan
Fan Voltage
Scythe Samurai Z
Scythe Katana
LS Cable SHS-X500
Noctua NH-U9
12V
25°C
27°C
24°C
24°C
9V
32°C
29°C
28°C
26°C
7V
39°C
33°C
34°C
31°C
5V
>54°C
42°C
>55°C
36°C

Unfortunately, the bias for low airflow makes the Samurai Z look rather bad — it's outperformed by every other competitor. Its closest competitor is the SHS-X500 from LS Cable, but even that manages to do better with low airflow.

The Samurai Z does better when used with its stock fan. The Samurai Z, the Katana, and the SHS-X500 all come with similar fans, so the comparison is worth examining.

Midrange Heatsinks, °C Rise with stock fans
Fan Voltage
Scythe Samurai Z
Scythe Katana
LS Cable SHS-X500
12V
18°C
23°C
20°C
9V
21°C
25°C
23°C
7V
25°C
27°C
27°C
5V
32°C
30°C
33°C

This time, the Samurai Z reverses the standings and comes out on top. Once again, its closest competitor is the SHS-X500, but this time the Samurai Z has a slight edge.

NOISE RECORDINGS

Scythe Samurai Z:

MP3: Scythe Samurai Z - 5V / 18 dBA@1m

MP3: Scythe Samurai Z - 7V / 20 dBA@1m

MP3: Scythe Samurai Z - 9V / 24 dBA@1m

MP3: Scythe Samurai Z - 12V / 30 dBA@1m

Recordings of Comparable HSF:

MP3: Noctua NH-U9 / Coolink U8-92-1900 - 7V / 21 dBA@1m

MP3: LS Cable SHS-X500 - 7V / 21 dBA@1m

MP3: Scythe Katana - 7V / 22 dBA@1m

MP3: Nexus 120mm fan - 12V / 22.5 dBA@1m

MP3: Nexus 120mm fan - 8.8V / 19 dBA@1m

HOW TO LISTEN & COMPARE

These recordings were made with a high resolution studio quality digital recording system. The microphone was 3" from the edge of the fan frame at a 45° angle, facing the intake side of the fan to avoid direct wind noise. The ambient noise during all recordings was 18 dBA or lower. It is best to download the sound files to your computer before listening.

To set the volume to a realistic level (similar to the original), try playing this Nexus 92mm case fan @ 5V (17 dBA@1m) recording and set the volume so that it is barely audible. Then don't reset the volume and play the other sound files. Of course, all tone controls and other effects should be turned off or set to neutral. For full details on how to calibrate your sound system playback level to get the most valid listening comparison, please see the yellow text box entitled Listen to the Fans on page four of the article SPCR's Test / Sound Lab: A Short Tour.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

The two comparisons show the strengths and the weaknesses of the Samurai Z very well. Out of the box, it's a solid performer with a reasonably quiet fan that tolerates undervolting well. For US$30, it's a pretty good deal. On the other hand, performance drops off quickly as airflow is reduced, making it a poor choice for silence fanatics. But most fanatics will be looking at extreme heatsinks like the Scythe Ninja, the Thermalright XP120 and so on, and spending a lot more than $30.

Aside from performance, it has a number of positives. It's small, light, and short enough to fit into a small form factor system. The installation procedure is simple, uses the stock mounting bracket no matter what socket type it is matched with, and doesn't even require a screwdriver.

That said, the mounting system is fragile, and is may not be durable enough to be shipped safely cross-continent while installed. And, thanks to the half-size fan clips, swapping the fan is a bit of an ordeal.

All in all, the Samurai Z is a good quiet choice for someone who doesn't want to tinker too much. It's already as good as it's going to get in its stock form ° there's no need to change anything. It's quiet enough for most people, provides good enough performance for most people, and is easy to install. Perfect for the set-and-forget crowd.

Pros
* Good performance-for-price with stock fan
* Stock fan is quiet and tolerates undervolting
* Very easy to install
* Universally compatible
* Low profile
* Light weight
* Downward-blowing fan provides VRM cooling
Cons
* Doesn't like low airflow situations
* Fragile mounting system
* Difficult to remove fan clips
* Fins prone to resonance
* Odd design seems prone to slight manufacturing imperfections

Much thanks to Scythe for the Samurai Z sample.

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